Why did Ali Xeeshan use fair-skinned models to promote dark skin?

With the year coming to an end, Pakistan’s fashion industry has had its fair share of good and bad publicity. From cross border collaborations such as the Indo-Pak fashion week held in Oman to fashion designers showcasing their collections in the Pakistan Fashion Week held in London, we’ve seen Pakistani fashion reach the zenith of success. However, we have also seen its depraved side. 

I doubt we’ll ever forget the videos featuring crazy aunties barging in and breaking doors to get their hands on kurtis that were merely 50 per cent off. Not to mention that harrowing story of Tabassum Mughal allegedly beating a woman for having asked for alterations on her daughter’s bridal dress.

But no matter how absurd these stories were, nothing beats Ali Xeeshan’s latest bridal collection that supposedly promotes diversity. In fact it has taken the fashion industry a step backwards.

Pictures of his collection appeared on my Instagram newsfeed this Sunday, and I was more than a little horrified. It wasn’t his clothes that paralysed me. It was the way they were being marketed.

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For those who haven’t seen the promotional images, here is a brief description:

Two famous models namely, Amna Baber and Hasnain Lehri are seen wearing green, yellow and red items from the new collection in a village setting.

The caption reads: “Ali Xeeshan goes on to redefine beauty standards again! The shoot is set to promote embracing your own colour rather than going for other beauty standards.”

As much as I like the clothes, I can’t help but squirm when I look at these pictures. The label has picked two fair-skinned models to portray dark skinned villagers.

What’s more problematic is the fact that many of Xeeshan’s fans were highly appreciative of this media campaign, while only a few asked Xeeshan why actual dark skinned models were not used for this particular photo-shoot.

Xeeshan has made a move to set himself as a progressive designer in our fashion industry. He wishes to challenge the reigning beauty standards of our time. Although I admire his intention, the subversion of our current ideals require more than these hollow statements and inconsequential photo-shoots. The fact is that Ali Xeeshan did not give actual dark-skinned models the chance to be featured in his campaign.

That simple fact takes away all the power from his statements.

In conversation with The Express Tribune, he said,

“This shoot’s sole purpose is to have people understand that their colour is the right colour; that beauty standards are not to be stereotypes. I hope to do more shoots like these where brown beauty is embraced and celebrated as much as any other.”

As much as I want to believe that Xeeshan is earnest in his endeavours, I fail to understand why he could not have employed someone like Fayezah Ansari or Iraj Manzoor. Why did fair-skinned models have to be slathered with dark foundation to sell the idea that dark skin is beautiful? It’s almost as if Xeeshan doesn’t believe in his own words.

Another worrying aspect of the photo-shoot are the assumptions embedded deep within the pixels. Firstly, the image is very rural-centric. It suggests that the discourse on dark skin is only relevant to the villages and small towns in Pakistan. It, therefore, suggests that dark skin only applies to the lower-class of society.

As a result of these assumptions built around the image that Xeeshan is propelling, stereotypes are being enforced. Instead of subverting beauty ideals, he is, in fact, bolstering their premise.

I’m sorry, Xeeshan, but I’m not buying it. Your empty words or your clothes.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/31025/why-did-ali-xeeshan-use-fair-skinned-models-to-promote-dark-skin/

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